If Florence is your destination this summer, escape the heat and travel the stiletto-path less beaten with Kate Horan as your guide. A Californian who frequents the city four times a year for her accessory boutique Sorelle Bionde, Kate provides the following hit list—along with some helpful Italian phrases—for sipping, flirting, shopping, eating, and relaxing in Florence.
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Prendo un caffè, per favore.
(I’ll have a coffee, please.)
Roberto Cavalli Café
Via de’Tornabuoni, on the corner of Via della Spada
Where the local and international fashionistas flock. Sit inside (ah, air conditioning!) or at one of the café’s street-side tables. Before you leave, be sure to pick up a very Cavalli-esque, zebra-print box of chocolates.
Vorrei comprare qualcosa di particulare.
(I would like to buy something special.)
Via Vacchereccia, 6/r (off of Piazza della Signoria)
Ines Osella carries a unique collection of clothing, whose subtle, relaxed silhouettes and accessories are always several seasons ahead of American fashion. The boutique is a good place to find Mali Parmi, a designer rarely seen stateside, whose shoes, belts, and purses elevate a simple outfit to a stylish statement.
Luisa Via Roma
Via Roma 19-21/R
The destination in Florence for high-end, European labels. Beautifully edited selections of YSL, Dior, Yamamoto, Cavalli, and Marni, as well some of the more avant-garde designers difficult to find in the U.S. Clothing, shoes, purses, and accessories—if you are willing to part with the euros, you’ll find everything you need here to transform your look from head to toe.
Via Calimala 19R
The perfect spot to pick up something for an evening out. Its on-trend collection of blouses and other separates always reflect the current Italian style.
Fa caldo fuori…ho bisogno di una birra.
(It is hot out…I need a beer.)
Via di Belvedere (Piazzale Michelangelo can be reached from Piazza Giuseppe Poggi)
Enjoy your beverage with a view! Piazzale Michelangelo (accessible by bus, taxi, or on foot) offers breathtaking views of Florence and the surrounding hillside. Slate your thirst with a cool drink at one of several outdoor cafés before snapping photos for your travel blog.
Dove posso trovare la vita notturna?
(Where can I find the nightlife?)
Lugarno Corsini at Via de Tornabuoni
The place to see and be seen. Shimmy with a younger crowd (ages range from twenties to mid-forties) while sipping cool cocktails at Florence’s bar of choice. Located next door to Bottega Veneta on the Arno River, Capo Caccia appeals to the Florentine’s sense of evolving fashion by reinventing itself seasonally with a completely new décor. By midnight, the crowd overflows to the street, with many of the patrons casually perched, cocktails in hand, on the riverbank walls.
Faremo una passeggiata…
(We will go for a stroll…)
Giardino di Boboli
Enter through Palazzo Pitti, Via Romano
The perfect escape from the crush of tourists flooding Florence in the summer. Cool, verdant, and relaxing, the garden and its picturesque fountains and statues are an ideal setting to stroll, pen a postcard, write in your journal, take photographs, or simply reflect on your travels.
Possiamo prendere un aperitivo insieme?
(Can we have a drink together?)
Borgo S. Jacopo 14
One of several properties owned by the Ferragamo family, Hotel Lugarno draws an international crowd and provides a sophisticated venue for a pre-meal beverage. Seek out bartender Stefano Rinaldi, who was recently awarded honors at the Martini/Bacardi Grand Prix. Stefano was kind enough to share the ingredients of his soothing summer aperitivo, the “Elisabeth.”
(Always better when Stephan outs his shake on things…but to try at home, combine the following:)
• 4 cumquats muddled
• 2 brown sugar cubes
• mint leaves
• 6cc rum Bacardi Oro
• 4cc ginger ale
• crushed ice
Shake and serve in small tumbler.
Le Volpi e l’uva/enoteca
Piazza de’Rossi 50125 Firenze
Florentines and wine enthusiasts from afar will agree: The best spot for wine in Florence is Le Volpi. This unassuming enoteca is easily to miss, remaining a secret destination for those in the know. It can be found just after you cross the Ponte Vecchio on your way to the Pitti Palace—take a left at the first piazza after Via de’Bardi and continue until you see it on the left.
Le Volpi has indoor and outdoor seating areas, as well as a small bar running the length of the room. Sip wine while enjoying bread, cheese, and other small bites. Should you be uncertain what to order, let the hosts guide you to the perfect pairings.
(I am hungry!)
Vicolo dell’Oro 3
One of the most lavish spreads available in Florence for a pre-dinner restorative nibble— ceviche, sushi, crudités, canapés, breads, spreads, and more. You may want to cancel your evening meal after noshing here. Try the house Negroni, made with ginger and black pepper.
Via del Moro 48
Highlights at this restaurant include a standout salad (hearts of palm, avocado, shaved Reggiano, and pinoli) and the ricotta cheesecake. And if navigating the rest of the menu becomes a challenge, the waiters are happy to steer. A recent suggestion was the Taglierini al Magnifico, a house specialty that did not disappoint.
Via del Prosconsolo
Excellent Southern Italian-style pizzas, thin with a blistered and chewy crust. Customize the toppings to suit your palate.
Piazza Degli Scarlatti 1R (Lungarno Guicciardini)
If you want a break from the traditional food of Toscana, look no further. The setting is more Milano than Firenze, shedding the typical Tuscan trappings for a spare and modern aesthetic. The food is pared down too, a respite from the heavy game and bread-infused menus of local establishments. Expect fresh ingredients and innovative interpretations of classic regional dishes, accompanied by an extensive wine list and knowledge the wait staff.
Baci sono dolci e questo posto e romantico.
(Kisses are sweet and this place is romantic.)
The terrace of San Fransesco at sunset in Fiesole
An exotic locale, spectacular views, and a romantic atmosphere…. Bring a date, and a camera—you’ll want to commit this to memory.
The Rooftop Terrace at Hotel Continentale
Vicolo Dell’Oro 6r
The Rooftop Terrace offers an exclusive solarium during the day and stunning views of the hills and city at night. Just ignore the chilly reception in the lobby.
Sono stanca. Dove posso stare stasera?
I am tired. Where can I stay tonight?
Hotel Helvetia & Bristol
Via dei Pescioni 2
Splendid rooms, antique woodwork, crystal chandeliers, seventeenth-century art, panoramic views—this five-star hotel has retained its old world charms and authentic décor. Located in the center of Florence, The Bristol has recently expanded its restaurant, bar, and outdoor seating areas.
At the end of the evening (whenever that might be!) tuck yourself into one of the hotel’s generous guest rooms, but not before noting the fabric-upholstered walls, Venetian chandeliers, triple-sheeted beds, fresh rose and chocolates at turn down, and a fluffy robe and terrycloth slippers. It’s the perfect place to recuperate before the following day’s adventures.
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Sorelle Bionde was the creation of Kate Horan, a former marketing and public relations exec who, after numerous trips to Italy, decided to tap into her interest in fashion and artisanal creations. With more than fifteen years in retail fashion, this transition was a natural… although not without challenges. With passport in hand and a book on importing, she boarded a plane and started the venture. Cultural differences and navigating the various laws and procedures related to importing and customs proved it would be far more than a great European shopping expedition!